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Most Union Housekeepers Have Heavier Workloads Than Required by Hotel Ordinance

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By Jorge Casuso

September 9, 2019 -- The hotel union does not use the system it pushed for in an ordinance the City Council is expected to give final approval on Tuesday, generally resulting in heavier workloads for union housekeepers, the Lookout has learned.

The collective bargaining agreements negotiated by the union are based on a credit system, not the maximum square-footage system set by the Hotel Worker Ordinance, according to a spreadsheet listing housekeeper workload provisions obtained by the Lookout.

The Santa Monica ordinance approved unanimously by the Council on first reading August 27 sets a 3,500-square-foot maximum workload for hotels with more than 40 guest rooms before housekeepers are required to receive double overtime.

The ordinance allows union hotels to opt out ("Santa Monica Council Unanimously Approves Groundbreaking Hotel Ordinance," August 28, 2019).

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The six hotel contracts negotiated by Unite HERE Local 11 use the credit system considered the standard in the industry to calculate the housekeer workloads, according to the spreadsheet.

The document, which does not identify the union hotels by name, was sent by the Los Angeles Hotel Association to City staff before last month's vote.

The spreadsheet backs the findings of a report commissioned by the Hotel Association that found union housekeepers have heavier workloads than those at the non-union hotels covered by the ordinance ("Proposed Santa Monica Law to Protect Hotel Housekeepers Could Backfire, Report Says," May 21, 2019).

"We warned that union workers would have to work more hours and clean more rooms than those at non-union hotels," said Michael Genest, former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's budget director, who co-authored the report.

For the report, Genest and co-author Brad Williams, who are partners at Capitol Matrix Consultants in Sacramento, interviewed dozens of union and non-union housekeepers.

"If you were somebody pushing this (ordinance), the motive is not to reduce the workload of union workers," Genest told the Lookout. "It's to have more union hotels.

"If you are a union, your nature is to get more workers so you can get more union dues," Genest said. "They care more about themselves than the people they represent."

When asked about the hotels' concerns about the workload provisions, the union sent the following statement on Friday.

"That a corporation would oppose an ordinance that protects housekeepers from sexual assault because of the cost of any part of the ordinance is disgusting."

In addition to the workload provision, the ordinance requires hotels to provide housekeepers with personal security devices that large non-union hotels say they already provide.

It also requires them to use a City selected and certified Public Training Organization to inform workers of their rights and calls for hotels to retain workers for a 90-day transition period when the ownership changes.

The large non-union hotels' concerns centered on the workload provision based on square-footage.

City staff said they used square footage instead of credits because it makes the ordinance easier to enforce.

"Crediting varies across all hotels and can change day to day," said Constance Farrell, the City's spokesperson. "Square footage is the marker other cities are using."

Staff's analysis focused on cities the Council directed it to research, Farrell said, specifically Emeryville and Seattle, both of which set maximum limits of 5,000 square feet.

Staff also looked at ordinances recently approved by Long Beach and Oakland, which set the maximum square feet at 4,000.

The credit system typically sets a basic daily quota of one credit per room cleaned.

It also gives premiums and reductions that take into account such factors as the floor the room is located on, the size of the room and how dirty the room is.

In general, the union contracts require housekeepers to earn between 12 and 15.5 credits during a typical shift, according to the spreadsheet.

An analysis of the credit quotas at union hotels shows five hotel contracts require union housekeepers to clean the equivalent of more than 4,000 square feet.

Two of the contracts require workers to clean the equivalent of more than 5,000 square feet.

Only one hotel on the spreadsheet requires workers to clean the equivalent of the 3,500-square-foot maximum set by the ordinance.

Union officials confirmed that housekeepers at one union hotel "clean, on average, around 3,500 square feet per day."

Union representatives did not provide estimates for other hotels on the spreadsheet.

Genest reviewed the workload provision for one of the union hotels that gives 15 credits per shift, with a one credit reduction if a housekeeper cleans 10 or more rooms.

With the one credit reduction, or 14 rooms, multiplied by the smallest room size -- 427 square feet, according to the hotel's website -- that amounts to the equivalent of 5,978 square feet per shift.

Genest found that the spreadsheet for the hotel "lines up very closely with the analysis we did" and with "the hypothetical model we published."

Genest, who headed the State's non-partisan Legislative Analyst's Office, said the findings of the report he co-authored went unheeded by the Council.

"Maybe they didn't believe us, or they just didn't care," he said.

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